Thursday, May 25, 2017

MY POEMS OF OMAN: The Onyx Butterfly


From the West I fly over fields and islands of ice,
Always a life contained in a suitcase.
So here, aptly stuffed under my seat with a flotation device
Are the fragile remnants of my birthplace.

In between the folds of my carry-on are packed
Breakables and valuables inherited from my father
And towards the East my flight is tracked,
While I am a cracked vessel that only pride can fother.

There is a genealogy, a family tree, and ancient photos,
And a coral necklace for me that he did buy
When I was a little girl, that he kept wrapped in a sheet of my prose.
With some of with my old drawings. And that did make me cry.

Apparently he was always proud of his daughter.
But I always lived too far away. So he put aside for my child,
He did not ever get the chance to know. So I cross the water,
And keep my head held high, and cast grief aside, still unreconciled.

For his youngest granddaughter he leaves an onyx butterfly
A pretty little useless ornament, among so many other pretty useful things:
But for all the things he'll never get to say to her, he wanted her to have the sky
And he wanted to speak to her of wings.

"A girl is like a butterfly," I hear him now, his voice is still in mind
"She should be careful never to caught up fast in the hand of any boy
And she should feel free to leave them all behind
And follow the wild winds, to the heights that bring her joy.

Until the day she finds at last the hand of the him, that will let her be, well, alone.
Then she should not be afraid to rest, and enjoy the peace that brings...
Finding the one who appreciates her for what she is, and all the places that she's flown...
That will never try to rip from her, her wings."

Then, of course, he'd add, "Of course, being who you are, your own,
...Because no daughter of mine ever had wings delicate as tissue!
Your wings are likely made of steel, and hard as stone.
I wanted to remind you to know I've always taken pride in this, before I said adieu."

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

My Dream-Home PT 2

So I was wandering around looking for an old house to renovate when I stumbled upon my dream home. My husband seemed almost saddened that I fell in love with the wretched ruin that I did happen to fall head-over-heels for, because he was hoping for something classified as "sufficient" not "ruinous" by the Heritage Ministry, but we can't help who we love right? I happen to love a house that has no front door, few ceilings, and no roof. What can you do?

TO MY LITTLE SIS: Used bookshops and over-priced coffee shops gluten-free chocolate cake remind me of you.
LITTLE SIS: Walking to the lighthouse reminds me of Dad.
TO MY LITTLE SIS: Does any place remind you of me? [I totally expect her to say libraries, because all my friends always say libraries...or antique shops].
LITTLE SIS: Castles. Crumbling down ruinous castles. I don't know why. But that's you as a place to me.

She's so spot on.

So yeah. My dream house.

Me: It is situated on a very quiet street.
My Husband: By quiet do you mean totally abandoned?

Me: .... Anyways, yeah, so it has really high ceilings. lots of open concept potential in the bones of the lay-out....
My Husband: ...That would be because it is missing the ceilings. And a couple of walls. And the roof.

Me: Walls, schmalls.... Look at the space. And the lay-out. This was the kitchen (it even has the fireplace I always wanted... But imagine it as the living room? And the kitchen could go over there, and a bathroom, a laundry, and even a guest bedroom if you wanted. I don't know about the engineering but you might be able to make a separate entrance for that bedroom even.Then it could be like the majlis.

And the entry.... Look at the entry...
Me cont'd: Like, yeah I know those stairs need to be replaced, and like, the place is a ruin, but what a beautiful riun. Can't you imagine this though, all fixed up with like 16th-18th century antiques in here? Arabic lighting/

My husband: It would be beautiful. This was once a rich person's house by the height of the ceilings.

Me: It is even lain out like an English home. Door. Entry. Entry, Stairs to bedrooms upstairs. Down through entry, living room (was kitchen but make the kitchen further inside). Kitchen here. Bathroom/Laundry here. Guest room here. Khalas. It is PERFECTION.

My husband: Whoever owns this, they'll never sell it to you. or they'll ask for too much.

Me: Can you at least find out who owns it for me and try? I love it. I'll sell our house in Muscat in order to buy it and fix it. But I have to know who owns it to know how much it will cost to fix it etc...
So yeah, I know it is still a ridiculous day-dream but then, so was building our Muscat townhouse when we started and now that's done so....;) you never know right? This is Oman. Anything can happen.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

THE HOUSE: Drama, drama, drama, thieves and liars, and government corruption, and Ramadan is on its way too

So I haven't updated about the house I built in Muscat a lot. Mostly, because I was tired of drama, and needed a break from it all.

We are suing our contractor. He never finished "finishing the house" in terms of wiring, and plastering and painting, and he also used the cheapest plumbing pipes even though in our contract with him we paid for the best. His name is Salim but I am not allowed to print his whole name or his company. His brother is running it for him right now. Salim is from Al Sharqiyah and is a "Rashid" for his family. Nice to know they have such an honest, caring, responsible guy for their "Rasheed/Rashid" right? He didn't care because he knew this would cost us money, which we clearly didn't have, but guess what "Salim"?

I inherited half a house, which has been sold, and I now have the money to sue you. I don't even care if I don't get the money. I want you to suffer, Salim, like I did, when I was almost 9 months pregnant, and had to move into an unfinished house that had no electricity (i.e air conditioning).

Enough said on that subject. I have enough drama in my life without Salim-the-Respectable-Rasheed and his idiot brother. The courts and lawyers can deal with them.
And the drama with the neighbors never ended.

In fact, apparently I bought a land that reveals corruption in the office of the Muscat Municipalities, the Housing Ministry, and the Electricity and Water sections. How lucky for this OPNO right? Something to blog about.

So I've already blogged about the corruption regarding electricity and water right? Like we were told we can't have temporary water, so we have to pay to take from a neighbor or from water trucks. Then one of the neighbors (the bad one) gets temporary water for his land, after we had to pay his relatives a ridiculous price for our water while we were building. Fishy but meh.

When we have to hook up for electricity we are told there is no space on our box and we have apply for a new one, do all the work to get it approved, etc... Turns out there was space, go figure. Good thing we learned enough about our neighbor's wasta to check.
Then it comes to my land. It is on a parcel with two other lands, that were once a farm. Obviously, since this farm still has water and a working well, someone had some wasta at the housing ministry to get it made into residential land, since it isn't supposed to be split for that.

Okay, so this is where we entered into it. Beside our land is a well. Since the farm is cancelled we asked for the well to be covered. Not just for the safety of our own children, who rarely go outside, but for the random children of renters on the other side of the farm, who let their children run free around the well.

Corrupt neighbor gets really mad at us when the city makes him cover the well. Alas.

The well issue is also a puzzle, that I have looked into and it appears the government already paid this family for the well land, to make the road. They got lands. In Mabaila. We've seen the papers.

Bad neighbor has a female relative who works in an important office in the housing ministry. I also have a relative who works there too so this is how we know everything. Wasta. Ain't it great.
Now, they are claiming for the land a second time, which is another scam. Which I guess is why they pulled out our land stakes to try to make our land smaller, and argued about where we could put our gate? We built our house to the edges of where the land is according the croquet (deed to the land), and we have seen the croquet for the well and know they do not own it, and are only claiming for it again to steal more land from the government, but whatever, wasn't a big deal to me. I do feel sorry however for the old lady who occasionally walks by my house to curse it and us, since she thinks we stole the land from her, when her relative actually sold it to us, and when they split the lands and got the Mabaila lands, apparently they didn't give anything to her, but said "us wasta people" with the new house got it somehow.

No wonder she hates us, even though I do find her amusing, and as my Arabic sucks, she can swear curses at me all she likes and I will still try to shake her hand, because it makes her even more mad and I find stuff like that to be funny. Like I am some evil expat wasta English woman who can take whatever she wants, and doesn't care about widows who've been cheated out of their inheritance.

I do feel sorry for her though. That her own family stole her rights and no one seems to care but me, who she curses whenever she walks by my house.

What did annoy me is there an adjacent land...and to annoy another neighbor who the bad neighbor hates who is directly across from it, he decided to go a major building effort from midnight until 4 am. And parked his bloody cement truck outside my bedroom window.

Tired, I told him to move his bloody truck, and that in Islam, we have respect for our neighbors and don't purposely try to ruin their sleep.

He used this incident to bug my husband, being like oh I talked to your wife on the street blah blah blah. Like that means anything but that if he ever hit on me I'd punch him in the face and he could say, I touched your wife, and I'd be like, sure you did, with your nose to my fist and that's all good. And I liked that too;).

But of course, Omani husbands don't like any of that so...

Also, the farm behind our houses, is a pile of garbage. The bad neighbors keep dumping and we asked them nicely to clean it up a few times. Why? Because it creates a nice habitat for snakes and rats.

I've seen many rats now, and had one snake.

So my husband filed a complaint with Muscat Municipalities.

Apparently bad-neighbor has a relative who works there too, because we ask why nothing was done about and they say their inspector came out, saw that it was cleaned, and erased the complaint from the file, and also gave us a ring to ask if we were satisfied.

No we were not, we surely never got a call, and, the person who was the inspector is clearly a liar, because the garbage heap is still there, same as ever.

Also, said neighbor knocked one of the wall lights of my wall. We asked him to fix it but he never did. Not worth fighting over that one I suppose. Although we did advise a neighbor whose female daughters his sons apparently molested to sue him at the police for that.

Then today, he is mad and drives over all the trees in our front yard. The ROP said he has to sign a paper not to do that again but only because we saw him.

My husband is freaked out that he'll break into my house or something but I am like, ha ha let him, and I will just shoot him, and all this drama will be over.

My husband is like... ughhhhhh no.

This is all so annoying. Like he seems freaked out that we are trying to steal the well land from him when really we just want the road fixed, because I guess greedy bad people think all people are just as greedy and hypocritical but blah. Like, yeah we have a relative there too, but we aren't trying to steal anything just get the well covered and the road built, since technically, that's supposed to be done already, bought and sold.


And then Galfar comes in with the sewer project and they break my garden hose (I know they did because like literally five seconds before I used it in perfect condition and left it just fine then they were in my yard and used it and it was broken). Galfar said prove it.

I couldn't of course, and it isn't worth going to court over a garden hose.

Then the very next day a couple of Galfar employees come into our yard, at 5:30 am (I happen to mop in the am) and proceed to steal stuff out of our tools. I see them from my living room window. I am in a nightgown and don't expect people to be in my yard at that time since Galfar already finished our sewer part, so I am just thankful that the sun was up enough that my window was not entirely see-through.

Again, I didn't video-tape this, but it happened.

They got away with it until---stupid---they did it again in the afternoon (since I don't sleep) and my husband video-taped them doing it.

So thanks Galfar. I want a new garden hose, thank you very much, and I think you will get me one.

So that's life in my 'hood.

This Ramadan I want to make a giant sign (but have someone translate the following into Arabic for me please), that says: "Dear Neighbors, Just a Reminder, it is Ramadan. Let us refrain from stealing from, and lying about and lying to each other for just this month, okay? Because I come from a non-Muslim country and the non-Muslims there act better than my so-called Muslim neighbors here seem to. Much love. The Crazy Canadian."  I am totally willing to hang it down the entire front-side of my house. I'd add the part from our Islamic teachings that says that the believers want for one another what they want for themselves.

What do you think?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

So I found my dream home. It doesn't exactly have a roof...or floors, but

The conversation went like this:

OPNO: "So you've seen the pictures of my house. What do you think of it?"
KPS: "I think it looks exactly like what I always envisioned your house would look like."
OPNO; "And will you buy a place here {in the land far-and-away}?"
KPS: {Laughs}. "One day. When I'm a millionaire."
OPNO: "That will happen. Everything else we always said would happen happened, just in a way we never expected it would.And when it does, what will you buy?" 
KPS: "A penthouse somewhere. Or an old Victorian just to be difficult. Or something ultra modern over the beach."
OPNO: "Remember when I said I would one day buy the old Oriental hotel and fix it up into a townhouse?"
KPS: "We thought you were crazy but you'd be a millionaire now if you had."
OPNO: "I would have done it better. The developers made it too small. I'll have to buy at least two to live to the size I want to live."
KPS: "So now that all of your dreams have happened in Agra-bah {Oman, inside joke}, what do you want now?"
OPNO: "I don't know. To keep my promises. Get my driver's license. Travel. Finish that bloody novel. Buy a broke-down-castle and run around all day playing with swords. You?"
KPS: "See the world, at last."
Well, while my friends are off seeing the world, and I am back to life-as-usual as a house-wife/writer/currently unemployed researcher in Muscat, I finally found my castle.

While scuttling around in ruins (which is how I like to spend my child-free weekends) trying to photograph a door lintel, I happened to spy a staircase. I made for it, because let's face is, abandoned Arabia, and staircases make awesome photos...when there are no rooftops or ceilings, and the stairs lead to the sky.

My husband is like "Remember when you fell through the roof!" (which every one likes to remind me of----and it was only one time!). Usually he stops me from exploring by insisting the structural integrity is crap, but I weigh less than most people so I can usually go up on something ready to come down without issue. Still, there have been some instances with bats. I don't like guano, and I don't care how many times it has happened to me, but I never get used to being overcome by a cloud of frightened bats at noon. People should warn me instead: "Remember that time you tripped when you were running away from the bats in Rustaq!"...That would work better than reminding me of the house in Qantab whose roof I fell through, but whatev.
There were no bats...but the staircase was crumbling nigh away, so I did not go up.

Going in to reach the staircase, however, I found another door and it lead to the most beautiful room I have ever seen in any house or fort in Oman as of yet. And yes, it was open to the sky. Yes there were no ceilings or floors where there should have been the like, and yes, the floor was covered with stinking garbage, but I blinked twice, and saw my castle in the remains of the architecture.

It was just a late 16th-17th century kitchen yes, but such a kitchen! It had two fireplaces, and big open area, and it led to other rooms, and I could see it converted into a seating area, with furnishings and materials from the time period. Looking up, I saw the bedrooms exposed to the sky, and I told my husband I would sell my house in Muscat if someone will sell us this ruin, provided they have the ownership papers. If an engineer says I can fix it, I will try to buy it.
I loved it that much. 

My husband squinted at it, and said from the height of the ceilings it once had a rich owner, and said if it belonged to a Sheikh they will never sell it to me or him, but I tell you, if I can one day I will live there. Like, I'll put a bright big brass plaque on the outer wall of the house saying who owned it and their entire history, and even leave a public open room near the front for free to tell the story of the original family if they are so proud to have it like that, but I don't want it to fall down, and I want to live in it. I'd even have a deal that the cost of the land+whatever repair I put into it (and I'll keep all receipts), and the original family can buy it back for that before ever any one else is allowed to buy it if I ever had to sell it once they sold it to me. I care about history like that. Some nice man in France once made my family a deal like that. 
So yes, now I found my castle. I don't know who owns it but my husband is asking. Of course, gotta live in Muscat until next year at least... but maybe...who knows. My husband thinks it is crazy of course, but he likes crazy. I know he didn't want to do stone and mud brick because that's what he grew up with, but this one was more European than Arabian in scale and lay-out if that makes sense? Like the rooms were divided with more central flow, and old Omani is usually different inward tracks, and a bit more maze-like, excepting the main sabla/majlis and entry stairs, so far as I have seen in two-three-story old Omani houses. And it wouldn't take much to make it lovely. A front door would be nice, Just some walls here and there, a little ceiling, a roof, and some floors;). Electricity. Running water. You know.
But I can't get it out of my head, like the old Oriental Hotel in the land far-and-away that someone else bought and restored like I had always planned to do...

My First Poisonous Snake-In-the-Yard Experience

I have lived in Oman a lonnnnng time. I have been visiting the country regularly even longer. I myself have never seen a poisonous snake (or even a not-poisonous snake) here, in Muscat, in the Wadis, or the mountains or desert. That means...they are not too common, or I am lucky...I guess?

...Although, a sister-in-law-through marriage was bitten as a child and still suffers (the bite was not immediately treated and caused nerve damage I am guessing), and another sister-in-law in Mabaila living near a wadi had a few in her house that had to be killed. And back when I lived in Barka a ten-year old boy was bitten by a viper and died very fast, before they could take him to the hospital, so it does happen I suppose. And my little sister saw a viper in PDO housing once. The house boy (that's what my parents called him not my fault---he was more like our gardener?) killed it with a stick.

Well, all that changed recently when I was in Canada, because my kids saw a snake in our yard in Muscat. Yes, I was not here, but it was in my yard, spotted by a two-year old, so that counts as even scarier don't you think? Alhamdulilah no one was bitten.

The snake apparently climbed the tree next to the wall around our yard, dropped down to the balcony of the roof, and then dropped from there to the yard, which was witnessed thankfully, so no one went to change the gas cylinder, where the snake decided to curl up and around after the exertion of getting into our yard.

I don't know what kind of snake it is (it is shown in the photo above the post), but my Omani husband insists it is poisonous, and promptly killed it. How, I did not ask. He once shot a harmless but ugly little yellow lizard inside our rental home with a rifle sooooo....Needless to say any poisonous snake in our yard is going to get itself killed.

I don't know much about snakes, and there are no poisonous snakes where I am from so I have no natural fear of them, and I've always wanted to see one out in the wild, but not in my yard, around my kids;).

Monday, May 8, 2017

Ancient Resources of the GCC: timber, pearls, carnelian, ivory, linen, copper, dates, and perfumes

Timber (i.e, trees) is not a natural resource I often relate to the context of Oman. I, having been born in a temperate rain forest, and living close to a lot of villages where logging was the predominant historical livelihood (or fishing) kind of smirk when I think of the trees we have here in Oman in general: Date palm, Mangrove, Christ's thorn, or more rarely, Juniper, and Olive. But ancient Kings in Sumeria and Mesopotamia did not laugh at the GCC timber industry.
Pakistani rosewood, called "mes-magan-na" by the Sumerians, came via trade with Magan (i.e, Oman). This was probably sourced from Baluchistan or the Indus Valley through further trade links there.

Dilmun (i.e Bahrain) was referenced by Mesopotamian Kings as the exporter of teak, Indian cedar, and probably rosewood. This was all back in the mid 3rd millennium B.C. .
The degree of competency required for sailing as far as the Indus valley has been discussed by Potts (1995 & 2017) and Potts mentions depictions of sailing craft that would be capable of such a journey being found on pottery dated to 6,000 BC. Potts likens these craft to the batil style dhow boat from Musandam in Oman.
Similarly, anywhere, and anyone who brought timber to Mesopotamia, also brought Indian carnelian gemstone, and carnelian has been found in period sites along the Gulf coast and up inside
the mainlands here as well, along with famous finds in Mesopotamia.
Ivory (being famously valued for the hilts of Omani khanjar daggers) came the same route as timbers, and gemstones...from the Indus Valley civilization, and examples have been found dated to the late 3rd millennium BC. Most ivory found in Mesopotamia was imported via Magan (Oman), and to the UAE (parts of which were then part of Magan) as early as 2000 BC. Ivory appeared to be worn as hair combs at this time period, and persons were found buried wearing these hair combs, which I personally find very interesting.
Pearls are by far the most famous resource for GCC states other than Oman before the discovery of oil. Pearling sites existed from the cost of Qaatif in Eastern Saudi Arabia, to Dubai, being the richest in pearls to the North of Bahrain and Qatar, and North-Western of Abu Dhabi in UAE. The world's earliest pearls have been excavated from Umm al-Qaiwain in UAE, this being dated to the mid 6th mill. B.C. (Potts, 2017). The closest date-able pearl finds to Mesopotamia of course, come from Kuwait.
Linen was sent (we know this by the remains of letter sent to the Queen of Lagash by the/a Queen of Dilmun (Bahrain)) in the form of three gift dresses. The cultivation of flax for linen has been found in Turkey to date from at least 7,000 BC, but we know from the Egyptians, that this goes back earlier. For Mesopotamia, a scrap of linen was found dating back to the mid 3rd mill., and linen production is known to have existed here around 2000 BC. However, did earlier linen come from the Indus Valley or the ancient GCC areas? While the most likely source was export from Baluchistan, whether or not flax was cultivated and produced in linen weaving by Dilmun, UAE Tal Abraq culture, or Magan remains unknown, only that ancient GCC civilizations circulated linen and flax, and that, by the reign of Queens of Lagash and Dilmun, the craft existed to make linen dresses worthy of gifting to queens.
Copper is Oman's most famous ancient resource. The copper mines of Magan were well-established exporters to Mesopotamia by the mid 3rd mill. BC, via trade links with Dilmun (Bahrain).

Frankincense perfumes are also famous to Oman via the Dhofar region, but Dilmun was a famous for trade in the stuff. Myrrh has been found (probably from Baluchistan)  taken from Dilmun by the Assyrians in the 7th century BC, but deposits of it may exist on the Ras Al Jinz finds.

Relating to the perfume export business, through which Magan often acted as a centre, soft-stone containers and dishes have been found to originate, which, Potts (2017) surmises were mostly for the holding or perfumes and oils and incense gums and resins. These have been distributed as far afield in the 3rd mill BC as Palmyra in Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, and Uzbekistan.

Dates were also traded, as the letter from the Queen of Dilmun to the Queen of Lagash illustrates, and although Iraq would have been no stranger to date cultivation, maybe ancient men and women preferred variety in their produce as much as modern day Omanis do, when it comes to dates?:).

Potts (2017) surmises that the most common trade Magan and Dilmun made with Mesopotamia was for clothing and textiles.

Potts, D. T. (2015). Watercraft of the Lower Sea. Pages 559-557.
Potts, D. T. (2017). Resource Origins and Resource Movement In and Around the Persian Gulf. Pages 133-142.

Preserving the architectural history of Oman by Oman's Own Citizens: STEP ONE

I am really thankful for the Curtis Law Blog for reading my mind, because I really needed to know how to start an NGO in Oman, for the purposes of creating something akin the Georgian societies in England and Ireland, and the Victorian society in Canada, who aim to preserve the culture, both architectural and cultural, of given eras.

For Oman, we currently have nothing like this. We have so many projects, and so many talented people, and so much history, and apparently, even some free resources, and volunteers, but all this exists with no connections, no framework, no easy path to discovery and help for deserving efforts. Everything that we do have is currently unorganized, uncoordinated, and undefined, with no collaboration, and few resources for citizens to preserve elements of culture, such as important buildings, structures, or sites...and while there is some support for artisans and knowledge, this is made irrelevant if it has no meaningful economic application (so I have found personally).

Anyways, will see what I can do on this, but thank you Curtis Law Blog, for preventing me for having to google another subject today (since I still have a thousand on my list left to google).

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Very Random Personal Post you do not have to read but I wrote anyway because it was 2am and I was awake still for no reason

I'm home. It was an adventure getting here, but I made it.

The whole long way of four-to-five connecting flights, and three-five security checks and different passport controls is beyond stressful, and is always exhausting, but this time I found it even more so. In my head I kept just counting down, only 18 hours now, only 12 hours now, only 6 more hours now....and I'll be home. Home, home, home. Flights were delayed, times to connect were stressfully short, and for some reason, in the (GCC) Middle East they like to keep us on hot buses on the tarmac waiting to be loaded onto the planes.

...On the way over, I just had to make it there on time. I had to get there in time. That's all that I could think about.

Then I had gotten there, the land far and away, and I came in time to say goodbye to the man who raised me, and made me most of what I am. He was holding on to see me. He should have died weeks ago, the doctors told me, most men would have done so a year ago, but he was a fighter. If he hadn't looked so starved and dehydrated, you wouldn't have known he'd die in an hour or so. He kept getting out of bed, insisting he had too much to do, work that he didn't want to leave us all with.

Everyone keeps saying maybe he became a Muslim in the end, but I don't think so. His beliefs made me to the point where ours diverged, but it was his keen mind to know and understand and question without judging all the cultures and religions of the world. He was a traveller, an explorer, and he encouraged me to read and think, and to go places and meet people and live in other cultures.

Afterwards we were sorting out photos of him. My favourites are the ones of him hiking in the rainforests of South America in the 70s, or sailing around the West Coast Pacific in his catamaran, There's ones of him on the side of a volcanoe, seeing the ruins of Chitzanitzu in Mexico, or Angkor Wat in Cambodia, There's also the beach photos, which my sister likes, in Cuba, San Diego, and Mexico. I like seeing him shopping in the floating market in Thailand, riding a motorcycle in Vietnam, riding elephants (which he insisted is a very touristy thing to do). There's a photo of him with his grand daughter, in Nakhl, here in Oman. He never got the chance to meet his other grandchildren (I've always lived too far away, and there were too many places he wanted to see before Oman again).

Omanis who met him always said to me "if only he was Muslim" because then, what a Muslim he would be. He was a good person, a humble person. You'd never hear him brag. He was the first to help his neighbors. He would never forget a friend. He put duty to family before doing anything for himself (which I almost wish he hadn't always done). He raised two daughters alone, and always helped his ex-wife even she is awful, because that's how men should treat women. He made me promise to look after a family member who is famous for driving people away with cheapness and his mean comments because "no one else will, but he is family". So I will honour that.

We didn't always get along. He was never good with words. He didn't like to write letters or text or call too much. He didn't know what to say to me, so often we spoke instead of ideas and news and history together, and these were things he made sure I was always passionate about. I've always been good with words, but could never really manage to tell him all the things he made me, that I loved him for. Really educated people always think I am smarter than I am, because it is his ideas that I express, that he could never word precisely enough, yet those ideas reveal a mind more advanced than mine yet is.

He had a viking funeral as much as that is legal now. His ashes were put into the sea. I wove a wreath of flowers, and that was pretty much all I could bear to do without letting myself get carried away by too great a show of feeling. The most common things people said of him were :"they don't make them like that anymore" and "the world is a lesser place now."

All I can say to myself is that there are eight gates to paradise, and one of them is for those who give charity, and another is for those who forgive and don't get angry; and, I remind myself, the final providence of human souls is none of my affair, beyond my own, and that as a Muslim I believe Allah is the Most Fair, and the Most Just, and the Most Merciful, and other than that I try not to think too much at all.

After that I wanted to go home. I don't really have a "home" per se. I mean, the land far and away is home too, but I've traveled too much, been broken too much, to belong any one place completely. Muscat is home too, because I am a Muslim, and that's where I first heard the adhan.

Now that I am home, I see the land-far-and-away much clearer. It is changing, and I am kind of the last of the old generation there (which is too weird). There's a couple left but they are much older than I am, and every time I go back we are less and less. Old prejudices seem to have died off with our grandparents, the ones we rebelled from while still keeping our love of traditions and history, because people seemed less afraid of Muslim-me this time. Still, I am glad I took the time to talk to the shop keepers on Fort Street. I never knew Don had been in Cairo as Intelligence during Nasser and Sadat. That he spoke Russian so well. If I go back again in a couple of years, would I get to hear of things like that still?

Anyways, life is always too short. There are things I should have done sooner. Things I should have done more of, and there's things I want to do but haven't at all, and I'd told my father that preserving the architectural heritage of Oman is one of those things, so I guess I better get on that;). I need to turn my ideas into words, and words into plans, and plans into actions, and actions into auditable measures....My Omani husband thinks this is impossible because he "knows how peoples minds work here" and that it is "too big of an idea" but then, meeting him, coming here, seems impossible too.

Where I come from is almost the opposite in every way. It rains all the time. It is cold all the time. Everything is green. Everything grows. To get home takes 28 hours at the shortest possible air route and I have to cross great ice fields either way,...but I can rarely afford that fare so it is more like 36 hours. I was raised agnostic, pagan, and that I should become a Muslim, come to Oman and stay here, and meet my still the most impossible possible thing that has ever happened to me. So "possible is always relative".

So I will start to work on that. So many promises I made, to a man who kept his word always. "All a man has for his own is his word, his intent, and what he's done before" he believed. I believe, additionally, a man has also his faith, and his beliefs, but my father dismissed those as unimportant in the end, beside the rest he mentioned.So...promises.

I've never been good with my attention span to timely follow-through on plans for myself, but possible is always relative;).

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

MY POEMS OF OMAN: My Love Was Made of Leather...and Updates on life in general

So I am back in the land-far-and-away for a Viking funeral. Weird, I know. Weirder for me. I am jet-lagged, grieving, and not hungry at all. I haven't cried really. When everyone else is crying I can't cry. Maybe when I get back to Oman I'll cry. Sometimes it takes me years. For now it is like I am floating, doing what needs to be done. I am supposed to be back in Oman, but since my work screwed up my visa, and the ROP put a valid visa stamp into my passport but not into the system originally, that made me miss my first flight and I had to catch a one-way out here, I still don't kow if I am allowed to come back on my first return fare. Waiting on that. Another stress factor I don't need.

I am trying to help manage get the estate (Omani's say heritage?) ready, because others are griveing (or are too drunk since everyone wants to finish off that heritage Scotch and vodka to manage or do a good job sorting). I gotta say, I have the most awesome cousins and my sister is doing better than I ever thought she would. And it is really weird, but since it has been such a long time that I've been away, and since then, a lot of older relatives have begun losing their memory just a bit, I am being treated like a ten-year-old girl. Which is so weird because even when I lived here my own father had no rules about how late I could stay out, he knew I could take care of myself, so that is so strange, that I am feeling more confined that I ever do in Oman. My Omani husband doesn't freak out if I go out by accident without telling him if it is to buy milk or something so it's odd... Anyways...

...So taking a break from all that, I met up with some old and good friends and we had coffee. Funny how everyone has to apolgize at first, because the first thing everyone does in the land-far-and-away is ask you if you want to go out for a drink.

So we go out for coffee and discuss our lives in different countries and find it weird that despite all the years and all the distance so many things are the same. We all finally managed to get into healthy relationships, and find work that suited our natures, and are starting to live our dreams, like travel, or family, or talents like politics, art, music, and writing. And wow, does my city now ever have a lot of male Saudi students. They pass by and do a double-take when they see a Canadian Muslim woman behind the cafe's glass window. That in itself, will never fail to annoy me. After coffee, we walk to the harbour, and the sun is shining, and everyone Canadian is enjoying the warmth, and I'm wrapped in solid wool shivering, clutching the coffee cup for warmth, alas.

Discussing relationships, we'd all come to a point in our lives where we put our feet down and said, 'this is what I deserve and I'm not taking any less', and to other people, if they didn't like it, then they could go, we'd be fine. Also, we determined we didn't trust people anymore. Not easily. Not very many people. I mean, once you are my friend, I love you forever. I am loyal forever. But if you screw with me, I don't give more than three chances. I just don't trust you again. And these days, I am suspicious of people who want to be new friends. I have to see their character exhibited by an external situation, to swear my loyalty to them in the first place.

Looking now at life, it is really odd, the people that wound up sticking by one, and the ones who slipped away. My friends asked me if I wrote poetry still, and I had to admit, I'd just gotten back into it. Below is a poem that I wrote about how my relationships have evolved, and it could go just the same for men as well, since there are an awful lot of women in this world as well, who are users and fairweather friends:


My love was made of leather
But his was made of sands that blow,
The love that wants, but what, it does not know.

The rare ration of love contained within me,
I bid him drink of it as if I'd had my fill,
So he could cross the plain and take the burning hill.

Canteen that I was, I gave him my talents and strength:
I choked on dust and drank stones,
And shrank content into a tent of skin and bones.

I would go without if he could just make it,
To whatever dream that he had, if we got there together
Through the parching winds, and blinding weather.

But his love was made of sand.
And I poured myself into the oblivion of his thirst-
But cracked, and dried, that well-skin burst.

My dreams for myself, like footsteps in the sand
Then shifted. And in his hesitation I found
The answer I was looking for, and came unbound.

If it weren't such a waste of water,

For the wasted years I would have cried,
Instead I went on walking, for my well of caring dried.

They call me cruel, for I left him alone there,
Lost in a desert of his own making, to change or die.
And I did not stop, or turn even to bid him “bye”.

A love that is made of leather
Is supple, and useful, and it even gleams with care!
But with over-use and neglect, it will show its wear.

To vain men and stupid girls, if you make woman but a canteen
To drink from, or a faithful rope to use, soon enough youll rue
The loss of a good woman, generous, unflinching and true.

If you would use, or allow the use of, the good faith of a first love
To bind her to some coward fool, as naught but a tie or a tether,
Take heed: but once in a girls life is her love made of leather.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

MY POEMS OF OMAN: Free-Climbing


The earth and stones have quit my feet
And expectations and obligations I did not meet
Threaten to swallow me whole...
...While I never lied, or faked, or stole,
And I praise God I've lived, and loved,
And could die content if pursued, or shoved-
I cannot, now, for my own vain thrill, or prideful bet
Risk the point without
We count, three seconds clear, the fall of stones,
And to miss is sure, the dash of brains, and end of bones.
Fear seems reasonable, despite all inspired speech,
For I cannot stretch, or see, or reach
And my hands are cramped and slipping
And without harness or caribeeners clipping
Him to the wickedly distant, impossibly downwards cable
There is no place on the rockface sure or stable
For my guide to tuck himself into and latch, if I should jump,
Not a crop of stone, a gambled root, or grassy clump.
For all that terror, still I think to myself, that should I perish
It would be to light like this, as if painted by Maxfield Parrish.
So while hanging there terribly suspended
I am accounting for my life as if already ended.
I prepare to fall clear and push away-
He'll only dislocate his arm to ruin if he tries to save the day
Or fall himself, if he should try to catch, if I should miss:
I'd rather jump, than share Death's kiss.
It was I unsatisfied. I did not want to drive to the ledge
And take photos like tourists. So he brought me to the edge.
We scaled together most of the canyon of the mountain of the sun
And now, more than ever, I am certain he is the one...
For apparently he thinks of me, most high, that I can fly!
So I spend all that my nerves and strength can buy,
And thank God I can yet afford the space of a body and a boulder,
And there we lie hysterically relieved, shoulder to shoulder,
Pressed between the cliff wall and resting before the open air
While the sun sinks and my guide laughs without care,
The two of us seeking the light of stars
Caring not for bruises, cuts and scrapes, and minor scars.
And he is not mad at me that I had no wings and not enough daring,
For being trapped, and my shaking hands, and silly, scaring.
I light a fire and he cooks a can of beans,
And against that boulder our entire existance leans,
While we sleep, or eat from off the edge of a dagger.
And for all my Western bravado, and failed swagger
He insists I could have made it with gear,
That all but a handful of men don't climb free without fear,
That no woman of his country he knows would even try,
That I know the rocks, and how to well, and when not to die.
With the baying of goats below we drink our coffee and wait
Until his friends come, lower the gear, and I can demonstrate,
Passing with ease the gnarled grey trees, and gerbera,
Ascending the ravine where it is lined with aloe vera,
Weary and chastened but taking the pegged cliff-face,
Struggling to detach the clips, and out of breath for keeping their pace.
---But I don't want them to call my husband a fool,
Or say no woman from our tribe should come as a rule,
Just because I am already jittery from the other day, and weary
But in safety, I am more than capable, let them say, if that bleary.
Then it is done, and I seek the shade of the car,
And my husband thanks them for their coming, even it's far.
People will call us fools, or crazy, maybe
But I don't want them to treat me like a little baby.
And while this trip to the mountain has made me feel smaller
My love for my husband has grown, because he sees me as taller
Than what I am or have been. And for all love may fade or change with time,
What marks it true, is that it makes you more, and sees you climb.
And loving is always a free-climb without any harness or safety, or clip
And it can make an awful mess of your life if you slip.
So while some people may be content to successfully fall in love,
My love lifts me up, he holds me firmly there, and sees me rise above.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Traditional Arabian Villages and Forts: Shorfat al Nakher and Husn Alfurs

On the road up to Jebel Shams, everybody knows, there's the ruins of an old village, a lot like Misfah Al Abriyeen and Al Hamra, but from the looks of it, older. It is often called "the ruins of Wadi Ghul" but it is actually called Shorfat al Nakhar. It is alternatively known as the Persian Castle, "Husn Alfurs". I doubt the Persians actually called it that, but I am sure the locals did.

Maybe Misfah Al Abriyeen in the time the Rogan watchtower was erected, was built around the same time, but I rather doubt Misfah Al Abriyeen was called Misfah Al Abriyeen then...Although no one really knows if a formal village existed in Misfah then or if the Persians killed everyone off there before the Al Abri tribe moved up from the old Wadi village down to settle Misfah. If so, then yes, the villages have similar time-frames. If not, this village seems older. Archaeologists say it was settled in 200 AD, before the Arabs came from Yemen with the breach of Yithrib dam, and some sources date the areas current architecture to 2,500 years ago, which was close to my guesses when discussing the architecture with my Omani husband. Still, I totally need to see more than one source confirming that to be sure.
Now, I totally intend to revise this post after I do some research on it, but the corner slab stones, and some of the defenses seem to pre-date gun powder style warfare so I am going with bows and arrows, from some of the slats I saw. Will change this if I am wrong, but this would make foundations dated from the mid 12th century (like 1130s-1150s) I believe? Again, don't take me at my word. What is sure, this village was properly abandoned by the 1960s.

So apparently whoever's fort this was, the locals finally overthrew them and hated the bloody fort so much they decided to totally destroy it rather than use it. Most captured forts in Oman were re-used by Omanis, but this one, locals say anyways, no.

Still, certain casements and the old walls remain, in ruins, the stones too big to easily re purpose I suppose, if locals are wrong, and Omanis decided just to dismantle the fort to build other structures instead in more peaceful times.

We saw some cool carvings on the massive doorway support stones (kind of unique), and the carved places that would be used to grind foodstuffs. Uniquely, since many are collapsed, I saw carved masonry joint stones, which I have not seen anywhere else in Oman (any other structures that would have used them have been restored by the Ministries so I dunno). Also, windows are unique, marking these windows as defensive.

Due to the climb the other day (see my previous post) I was a little exhausted to say the least, so we only stopped up here shortly. We did see a lot of expat tourists taking photos from across the road though;). It was a little warm making the five minute trek up the dry wadi bed to the village (entered into by a farm with a white gate and Ministry sign carved off and riddled with bullet holes, beside an old mosque, under which the falaj system runs). I think early morning or 4 in the afternoon would be a better time to explore the ruins than when we went. It was a little warm.
Next time I go I will be sure to explore more, and see the fort ruins itself of Husn Alfars (we stopped at the end of the most significant wall chunk in the village itself).

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Free-climbing at Jebel Shams: not recommended, but I had an adventure

[In case you didn't know, Jebel Shams is Arabic for "Mountain of the Sun" and Jebel Shams happens to be the 2nd largest canyon in the world. It is a 2.5 hour drive from Muscat.].

On the weekend I almost climbed one of the moderately-difficult-rated climbing tracks down into the Jebel Shams canyon. I have to say almost, because I didn't make it all the way down. You see, we went down free climbing. That means, without safety gear. 
I'm told, not a lot of Muslim women do this, even with safety gear, at least not in abaya and headscarf, but, to be honest, I have never found abaya and headscarf to stop me from anything. They might make one have to be more careful and skillful, but they don't limit what I can or cannot do. People do that, culture does that...not my clothes or my beliefs. 

Anyways, this trail really does just need one guide, and a safety harness with clips to make it safe, and then the Tourism Ministry's rating for it does correctly apply. However, without safety gear it is definitely very high-intermediate or expert, as there are places you can fall to your death, and no places (points) for foot or hand grips in the rocks if you are short (like  me). I was told, by Canyon Tours and Adventures, who I did have to ring up for help in the end, as I did need safety gear to get myself off the mountain, that they didn't know of any female climbers doing it free-climbing. Good to know. So don't be like me. Use safety gear. Don't be a loser.

My husband, however, favors free-climbing, and so that's what we "crazily" attempted. This is how it all started:

"Did I ever take you to Jebel Shams?" my Omani husband asked me. "No," I said. "Have you ever gone before?" he asked me. "No," I said, This surprised him. "Why?" he asked. "I never wanted to," I shrugged. "Why?" he insisted to know. "It's not the world's biggest canyon and all the tourists do it, take pictures and stuff. That doesn't interest me." "So would you like to go camping on the beach instead?" he asked me. "No!" I insisted. "That would be boring. I want to climb." 

So he did that for me. So I love him, because not many Omani husbands give their wives credit for everything their women might be capable of, or dream of doing.

....Because I was going with my husband....I didn't hire a tour or guide company

If you are going without knowing the way, I do recommend hiring a guide. The best guide companies will only take 2 climbers per guide if your climbing level is beginner-to-moderate. I recommend the local Omani company Canyon Adventures & Tours because they're good, and local. Their phone number is (968) 9941 2660  and their facebook page is .

My husband knew the way, however, and remembered the trail as easy enough (he's taller than I am), saying it should only take 10-30 minutes maximum. 

As he knows my skill level, he really thought I could do it and knew how proud of myself I would be if I did manage to do it. Of course, he forgot I was shorter than him, which makes a world of difference with free climbing, since one has to take risky jumps to catch points. Going down on this specific trail there were two points that were high-level risk for me, both in the middle. 

However, I found the first two areas easy enough. I wasn't tired or using any real muscle strength.
It was exercise, but enjoyable still at my fitness and climbing skill level, which I'd say is beginner-towards moderate for climbing, intermediate for hiking.

Also, we went later in the day, starting the way down at 4:30 pm. It is better to go earlier, but since it would take 10-15 minutes ideally (times are for intermediate-expert free-climbers or lower-level climbers with safety gear). 

The light is more incredible at this time though. The backgrounds were like a Maxfield Parish painting.
I loved the aloe vera plants growing on the mountain side. Sorry, I didn't really take more photos, but in the rest areas of the climb down I did. I didn't take more photos because from then on I had no free hands or legs. I was well and truly climbing. (If I go again with safety gear I'll be able to stop and hang there to photograph the views and nature).

At the first of the two high-risk climbs spots (for me) I did find I could use all my arm strength to support myself to slide down on the metal cable to reach the peg footholds in the mountain, but I had my husband down below me to guide my feet, and a climbing glove to keep the sweat off the sliding hand. 
Without my husband's guidance I'd never know where to aim, and would likely just slide off into the abyss. It was a 4-5 second drop down from there. Also, if I didn't have the grip strength or had been too afraid, I also would have fallen. It was a dumb risk, but alhamdulilah, no issues. From there though, I knew it was a point of no return for me. I couldn't get back up for sure, as my husband would have to be behind me to get me the grips without safety gear, and me as lead climber, I would be too short to make the jump. Probably.

Probably is not a good thing in free climbing. 
Anyways, after that was another rest point, and I was laughing (normally) still.

Another easier stretch came up, and I did fine. I bruised my knee and took a risky jump, but it wasn't frightening because there was room for failure there. There was enough space to likely catch one's self before going off the mountain.

Then came another narrow rest area. We were almost down, and it was the last part of the climb. Unfortunately for me, next up was another high risk spot. 

I could feel from my first attempt that the first peg for a foothold was too far for me. So I went back up, and my husband and I discussed it. I couldn't go back up though without safety gear. It would be just as risky that way, so I decided to try to brave it, but admittedly, I knew I wasn't likely to succeed.

I went down, following my husband's lead, but the rock face was such that he couldn't be my foothold if I truly went for the only real point on the rock. I was just too short. So I was clinging there trying to logically work out a way to do it, but there was no logical way. There was only a high risk jump that had only two outcomes. There was....make the jump and laugh like a mad woman........or fall. 

It was a 3 second drop clear down.

I tried, I really did, hanging there with just two points, my hands, connecting, and my feet just hanging there out in the open air below. 

Like that, the world spins away, and then spins up. I'm not afraid of heights really, but I am quite adverse to the idea of falling. I'm scared of being broken and dashed, for sure. And I don't like the idea of maybe taking others with me, if they dumbly tried to catch me. They'd only dislocate their arm and not save me, or fall with me. There was no catching me from that fall, if I missed the point. 

"You can do this, I know you can," my husband was saying below me.

With safety gear, yes, yes I could, I know I could. But without, it wasn't worth the risk. I know what I can't do, and I couldn't do that. Probably not, anyways.

Probably not is even worse than probably, when free climbing, turns out.

"I'm going to die," I assured him. "I'm going to die, ya Allah," I said, making fervent dua I still had the strength to climb back up. So my husband was my point (he saves my life literally at this moment that means) to get me back up, and it takes all my arm strength to get back up. 

I almost didn't, but I did, and that was the last of me. Then I was done for the day. 

I was too shaken. I literally could not control my hands. So I was laughing, and angry, and all that mess that adrenaline makes one. {P.S if you scare easy, make sure someone packs some orange juice; Omanis think Pocari sweat and Snickers are best but they're not}.

My husband got me an apple, and he called Canyon Adventures and Tours, we assured them we were fine for the night, had water, and lots of firewood, and food. They agreed to come "rescue" us in the morning. They knew exactly where we were.
Then we got some firewood together and found a solid rock between us and the cliff's edge, and decided we'd sleep there, edged against that rock so we wouldn't just roll off in our sleep.

We had a fire. Cooked a can of beans that we ate with throwing knives for our spoons, and made qhahwa (Omani coffee). Watched the stars. 

The stars were beautiful. I saw five shooting stars in the space of an hour.
We decided it was the kind of adventure that only the two of us could understand the fun of. Being stuck on a cliff, sleeping under the open sky. We were fine, and happy then. So we slept. Got cold, Got the fire burning more again. Slept again. Funny how sleep out doors in open air is always better than sleep in a bed, how two-four hours is like sleeping 8 hours at home.

We watched the sun come up but didn't take photos because we had low battery.

Then in the morning around 8 a.m. the safety gear came down and we went up. 

I totally felt like a loser, but the guys from Canyon didn't make anything of it, and were super kind. Even I am dressed like a local women and local Omani ladies don't do the kind of stuff. They even carried water down for us. Usually they take groups of 15, 2 people per guide. 

With the safety gear, the climb was actually fun again for me, even as tired and strained as my muscles already were, and how jittery I was from the day before. 

I told my husband I do want to try it again. Not this week, not this month, but again one day, with safety gear. With safety gear it isn't hard for me, and for sure I could finish it.

One way or another, I'm thankful I did try it, because it meant I got to learn my limits (which were not my courage, fitness, common sense, or daring in the end) but my height, and upper body strength and conditioning. I'm still thankful my husband thinks I am the kind of woman who can do these things, even if he thinks I am taller than I am;).

Thursday, March 30, 2017

MY POEMS OF OMAN: To Muslim Lands


What is hijrah?
There is no hijrah any more.
When even the Muslims
Define themselves by borders
And nations, and skin, and sects;
By tribe or by what you drive:
There is no hijrah...

Only a slow decay,
Rather than a sure breaking.

Still, I would rather be worn
Than broken and beaten,
Spat upon and cursed.
I don't know if I am coward
Or just of patience fled,
But I am tired of the lies
On which we Muslims are fed.
There is no Muslim country,
But ever to Allah belongs
Both the East and West.
Hush now, and I'll tell you a secret:
That world was never taken.

So in ease I pray and dress,
While some fool protests

For Shariah Law in a Non-Muslim
Majority country: for he is a fool.
He cannot even rule himself.
These are my so-called leaders, so I laugh...
For no vote had they from me.
Muslim lands have thin borders,
Difficult for mortal eyes to perceive.
Muslim lands are but as wide as our deeds
And as vast as the strength of our belief---
For the country of Islam is but the body
Of men who believe.

MY POEMS OF OMAN: Heaven is Under Her Feet


"Heaven is under your mother's feet!"
The shorta says to me,
"Just give it some time and be a good girl,
Say that you're sorry, you'll see."

Yes, I blew breath in her face,
That was a mistake, I yield.
But I fought off her steel knife with only
A wooden spoon for my shield,

And had her hands around my neck,
Squeezing 'till I saw the stars!
So I kicked and broke a couple ribs:
My old cradle, now my prison bars.

A mother is the darkest jail. You can't escape
Her even when you're out. Allah put care of you
To her, and see. That debt you cannot pay.
So if she needs, what you can, you must do.

So if she needs money I get it,
If she needs friends, I find those no doubt.
And if she were ever ill I would tend her
But beyond that, good Sirs, I am out.

Insanity is doing the same thing
Over and over, expecting different results.
And I am done with crazy.
Islam is not one of those  'suffering' cults.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


IF NOT I---or "the advice my father gave me"

If not I then who to stand,
For other men, when the castle gates are falling?
I could say wait! For whence another fit
To answer boldly to those calling
Sure will come! I could say this not my place,
These are not my kin, nor these my halls;
Still we could walk safely out from underneath these smoking,
Blackened ramparts. No oath spoken galls
My conscience: for no folk of mine are these!
High-speech was never my speech. The trouble and pain
Is not worth the enemies-making that is sure to follow!
Yet if not I, then no man is noble says my brain,
And all oaths of men are hollow. A man
Who does not do just what he can
To ruin, or the world’s red ending come
For right; he is not a man.
So because I can, I will stand,
Between this night, and the hope of day.
So remember me in darkness, Daughter!
When hope of victory, or glory, there is not a ray:
A man without rare skill or great goodness in me
Who laughs at heroes, and young men who think themselves brave;
I am the blood of those of little reach and no reaching say
Before, as Kings and Queens, I burn my pagan ship for the grave.
Yet great things are only done by good men
And power corrupts those great.
You cannot always be strong; Instead, Sweet Child, be brave!
And if it is in you: do not be the one the one who waits!

A poem inspired,  not necessarily by Oman, but my father's advice when it comes to doing the right thing, even when he's worried about me over here in Oman, fighting for some lost cause, and making myself friends;). He is ever the one other people turn to, when they need someone to be strong beyond words. I'm good at words, but in my father, I see what true strength means. And I'll never forget the day it was a mob-to one-odds, and he stood up for those he didn't even necessarily like or agree with, but only because it was the right thing to do. He had a girl dressed in a princess dress behind him, and all the boys were hiding inside, leaving it to that one "old man".

"When the kid is bigger than you, you're allowed a stick," my father always told me.  "What about when there is more than one kid?" I asked my father. "Get a bigger stick," he told me.

...But when there was a whole sea of them, red faced and wanting to burn that house down, my father stood in the doorway, barring their entry, armed with just a stick. "So what do you do, when you can't possibly win?" I asked my father. "Go for the leader," he advised me of mobs. "The rest are usually cowards." "And if that doesn't work?" I wondered. "Act crazy," he told me simply with a shrug, prepared to fail, but not prepared to let stupid, angry, blind wrong pass him without a fight. "Crazy is scarier than a gun to your head sometimes." Those fighting words have as of yet, not let me down.

So with him for a father, is it no wonder, I can't just say nothing at times? Or let another do what I could?